Special Interview: City Council President Todd GloriaAround the City Thursday, December 6th, 2012
Newly-elected City Council president Todd Gloria talks to San Diego LGBT Weekly
Following a unanimous vote, Monday, Councilmember Todd Gloria was elected president of the San Diego City Council.
As a third generation resident of Hillcrest, Gloria has represented District 3 since 2008. The District includes the neighborhoods of Balboa Park, City Heights, Golden Hill, Hillcrest, Kensington, Normal Heights, North Park, South Park, Talmadge and University Heights.
In one of his first interviews since his election as City Council president San Diego LGBT Weekly spoke to Todd Gloria about his new role.
San Diego LGBT Weekly: Todd, congratulations on becoming president of the City Council.
Tony Young’s resignation and subsequent developments all seemed to have happened very quickly.
Are you surprised at the turn of events and did you expect to be in this position so soon?
Todd Gloria: Tony Young has been a calm and thoughtful Council president, and I am grateful that he kept our focus on fiscal reform and restoration of City services. I will miss seeing him every day and will rely on the lessons I learned from him, during my time as Council president. It was certainly news to me that he was leaving, but I respect his decision and know his experience and leadership will benefit the American Red Cross. Upon learning of his departure, I sought the Council presidency with the hope that my experience has prepared me for the position, and I’m glad my colleagues agreed.
As president what will your overall agenda be for the City?
As Council president, I want to continue the positive, bipartisan efforts the City Council has made under Tony Young’s leadership. I’d like to further strengthen the City Council as a legislative body; use my experience as the Budget and Finance Committee Chair to guide the Council in making fiscally responsible decisions; work productively with Mayor Filner and the two new councilmembers to ensure a smooth transition and ensure the needs of all San Diegans are met.
What is the most important issue facing the city, what City Council committee will be charged with taking the lead on the issue and who will you choose to lead the committee?
The City’s finances remain of paramount importance. The Budget and Finance Committee is most closely connected to this issue, though it impacts all of the decisions we make. I am developing committee assignments now and will release them in the coming weeks.
After very divisive local and national elections how do propose working with the City Council across party lines?
What is a Republican issue that you support in bringing forth this year as Council president?
The City of San Diego has a solid history of bipartisan collaboration and success, as demonstrated by the achievements and reforms completed by Mayor Jerry Sanders and a Democratic Council in recent years. I know this will continue.
The services the City provides, like police, fire-rescue, libraries, and parks, are generally not considered along party lines. I’ve said many times that there is no Democratic way to fix a pothole and no Republican way to put up a stop sign. If we stay focused on finding solutions in a collaborative way, it’s unnecessary for party politics to seep in.
Will you be setting up any new Council committees?
I might consider some reorganization of committee responsibilities for efficiency and consistency purposes, but I believe we’re well-served overall by the current committees.
With San Diego’s strong mayor policy how do you feel about working with Mayor Bob Filner?
Mayor Filner will be a great addition to City Hall. I would remind you that San Diego has a strong mayor-strong council form of government and will be working to strengthen the City Council as a coequal branch to the mayor’s office. I look forward to helping the mayor accomplish positive things for San Diego.
In setting policy for the City what are the things that you feel most passionate about?
Overall, I am passionate about making sure that the needs of San Diegans are met in a responsible way. When I took office four years ago, the City faced a budget deficit of approximately $200 million. It has taken tremendous dedication and enormous sacrifice by our City workers to structurally balance our budget. Should the economy continue to recover, I look forward to additional service improvements that are both needed and make long-term sense.
What are your feelings on the influence of big business on the City of San Diego?
City government is best when San Diegans of all backgrounds and interests participate. As the son of a hotel maid and a gardener, I know that whether you run an office or clean one, we need your input and partnership to make sure we make decisions and pursue best ideas that will move San Diego forward.
Sometimes the City Council seems remote to the people of San Diego. How would you enhance the perception that the Council considers every viewpoint?
I work hard to remain accessible to my constituents and use a variety of means to communicate, from social media and email newsletters to my frequent “Coffee with Your Councilmember” meetings in the neighborhoods. As the Council president, I will continue to do all of those things so I can listen to San Diegans about what we should be doing for our residents.
What is your opinion on having medical marijuana dispensaries within City boundaries?
I am a firm advocate for safe access to medical marijuana for patients who need it. I have supported permitting some dispensaries within the City of San Diego as long as their neighborhood impacts were considered and mitigated. Unfortunately, the dispensary zoning the City Council approved a few years ago was successfully challenged by medical marijuana proponents, and had the unintended consequence of preserving the status quo where collectives cannot receive permits and patients are left with very few options.
As City Council president what would you like to see as your lasting legacy on the City?
I’d love to see more progress on ending homelessness and continuing to increase road repairs throughout the City during my time as Council president. But more than anything I hope that at the end of my time, people will be able to look at their City and be able to say that I left it better than I found it.
As the first gay president of the City Council what does it feel like to be the most powerful gay man in San Diego?
Ha! It is interesting that no one else has asked me about being the first gay Council president. I think that is a comment on how far we’ve come and that citizens do not really care about my sexual orientation; they care if I can balance the City’s budget and fill potholes.
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